Archives for : June2013

Do Children Gain Anything From Worship?

It is tough getting a family ready for worship, especially when you have two or three little ones. It may be especially hard to try to get them ready a second time for Sunday night. Thoughts may even go through our mind like, “They don’t really learn anything from it any way.” But is that really true?

Let me suggest a few very important things that even younger children gain from worship. First, they do learn bits and pieces. The more they hear, the more they will learn even if the majority of the lesson is over their heads. The truth is that in the typical sermon there are many things that even a younger child can understand. It might surprise us what they actually hear as they are coloring in their coloring books!

Attending worship is also the formulation of a very important habit. Obviously it is more than a habit, but yet it is a habit. After we attend consistently for a while our children learn that this is simply what we do. There is seldom an argument or even a whimper of disapproval about going. This good habit will likely become their own habit some day.

We will struggle with our children’s attitude toward worship when we are not regular in attendance. Surely they must reason, “We didn’t go last time, why should we go now?”

In attending worship services our children also learn what is important to us. We must understand that our values usually become their values. In contrast to this, what do we teach our children when we skip worship from time to time? They learn that worship and God are simply not as important as the things that we skip them for.

Children certainly do profit from being in the worship assembly. May we always allow our little children to come unto Him (cf. Mt. 19:14).

Daren Scroeder

Her 22nd marriage

I was very shocked to read about a Malaysian woman who is 107 year old and is married to a man who is 70 year younger than her.  I was even more shocked to read that this is her 22nd marriage!  In her previous marriages, some had died and some had divorced.  In this article she was expressing that she was afraid her current husband would leave her for a younger woman, but even if he did she had her eyes on a 50-year-old man.  If this was not already bad enough, her current husband expressed that they fell for each other because it was “God’s will” (CNN News).

What?  It was God’s will that this woman have 22 different husbands over the course of her life just so she eventually finds the one she is with now?  And God had this all planned out?  While many thoughts come to my mind in response to this, I will let God tell us what His will is.  1 Peter 4:1-3 says, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” Then we are all familiar with other scriptures such as Matthew 5:32, 19:9; Malachi 2:6, etc.  Obviously God’s will for this couple was for them to cease from such sins as they were committing. So, this couple was absolutely not following God’s will.  God did not approve of this marriage, and likely many of the others before it.

While having the attitude of “God’s will be done” is a good and valid one, this only works when people are actually trying to let God’s will work in their lives.  The goal of this article was not to focus on divorce, but about letting God’s will work in our lives.  Thankfully, God has revealed His will to us in the Bible.  God’s will is never that we live in sin.  No matter what we may think or feel is right, let’s make sure we have God’s approval within the Bible.  Let’s close with Colossians 1:9-12, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”

Brett Petrillo

The Bible and baptism

TO BE “SAVED” means to be made safe…

It implies that the unsaved person is in danger.  Mark 16:16 speaks of salvation and safety from sin.  When the term saved is used in reference to a Christian, it means he is made safe from the guilt and eternal consequences of his sins (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 15:2; Ephesians 2:15; Titus 3:5).  This safety is brought about by God’s pardon, which can be affected in no other way.  It means the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  This salvation is equivalent to the promise of pardon for those who believe and are baptized.  Many religious people balk at the idea of placing baptism in such a connection with salvation (that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins).  However, we must remember that it was Jesus Himself who placed baptism in this connection.  When a mind revolts at any of His words, it is not His fault but their fault.  The stubborn heart bears sole responsibility for one’s failure to heed God’s Word.  When considering the concept of being saved, one must take into account the power of God to deliver an individual from the bondage of sin by the power of the Gospel.  H.D. Simmons

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  Mark 16:16

–Mike Benson

How stay focused

The term “shell shock” was coined during World War I to describe the physiological reaction of soldiers who faced the seemingly endless barrage of artillery fire and shelling from the enemy. Bombardments could literally go on constantly for over a week in an attempt to weaken the defenses of soldiers who would then be attacked in an offensive. Soldiers would snap, running out of bunkers above the trench line to certain death, would get uncontrollable tremors and similar nervous conditions that could stay with them for a lifetime. Sometimes, as the result of shell shock, men would become mutes.

I ran across an interesting observation concerning shell shock. Joseph Persico writes, In a curious sociological phenomenon, as the level of responsibility rose, the incidence of shell shock declined. An officer looking after his men,inspecting fortifications, checking on rations, in short, a man whose attentions were directed outward–was less likely to crack than a simple, uneducated solider left alone on sentry duty or crouched in a shell hole for hours, even days, his thoughts fixed obsessively on his fate (Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918: World War I And Its Violent Climax, Random House: 2005, p. 155). What a remarkable finding!

Under conditions most of us cannot imagine, some men were able to keep themselves sane and collected while those around them fell apart encountering the same conditions. The difference was a matter of focus. I have seen people crumble, their faith destroyed and their lives a mess, when facing the trials of life. Yet, I have seen others face even greater trials, seemingly unbearable crises, who have remained calm, collected, and Christlike through them. The difference usually boils down to something similar to Persico’s findings. Those who continue to keep their focus outward, despite personal duress and difficulty, are able to “keep it together.” Those who merely obsess and focus on themselves are destined to crumble facing the trials of life.

Paul told the church at Philippi, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:3-4). This is wisdom not only for pleasing the Lord, but for living a more fulfilled, serene life. Satan and the world will bombard us in ways that seem relentless and endless. Only when we focus outwardly rather than inwardly will we be able to survive!

–Neal Pollard

Are you worried about something?

WHEN GOD TELLS us in the Bible not to worry, it isn’t a suggestion…

It’s a command.  Worry and/or anxiety is specifically mentioned twenty-five times in the New Testament alone as something we should avoid.

The words used most often for worry and anxiety in the New Testament come from the same Greek word, meridzoe, which means “to be divided, to be pulled in opposite directions, to choke.”  (Perhaps we wear anxiety around our necks after all.)

In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells us: “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures.”  These people have accepted the Word of God, Jesus says, but “they do not mature.”  Grasping for spiritual breath, worry-bound, thorny-ground Christians may survive, but they never truly thrive.

The Old English word for worry meant “to gnaw.”  Like a dog with a bone, a worrier chews on his problem all day long.

Why is the Bible so adamant about our avoiding fear and worry?  Because God knows worry short-circuits our relationship with him.  It fixes our eyes on our situation rather than on our Savior.  It works a little like thick London fog–the kind of fog that is legendary.  Why, it wouldn’t be a Sherlock Holmes without fog to obscure the villain and allow him to get away.  “Thick as pea soup,” Londoners describe it.  “Can’t see your hand in front of your face,” they say.

–Joanna Weaver

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”  Matthew 6:25

–Mike Benson

For we all stumble in many things

“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body . . . Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.” (James 3:2, 5 NKJV).

In the mission field, just like in congregations in the U.S., one must occasionally deal with accusations and rumors against preachers or other church leaders. Each one must be taken seriously and investigated, but many of these are quickly found to be false, based on some grudge or perceived potential gain for the accuser.

Many are made by non-Christians, but sadly some come from within the church. Each occasion reminds us of the power of the tongue, and the difficulty of controlling it.

Perhaps no part of the human body or nature has more avenues for both good and evil than the tongue. James’ teaching certainly supports this observation.

With the tongue one may curse, blaspheme, teach falsely, lie, gossip, malign, harshly criticize, hypocritically flatter, boast, worship false gods, speak obscenely or foolishly, engage in idle speculation, and tempt others to sin.

Conversely, with the tongue one may praise God, preach the Gospel, encourage others, and speak that which is true and wholesome, with much benefit to all.

The tongue is neutral, with equal power for good or evil. It is the mind directing the tongue, giving it words to speak, which determines its moral value.

Jesus taught, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts . . . wickedness . . . blasphemy . . . foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23).

One’s words are a product of his thoughts, and that is part of his nature. The keys to a righteous tongue are purity of heart and self-discipline. If one does not think it, he won’t say it. Even if he has an impure or untrue thought, if he considers carefully before speaking, he will avoid evil.

James declared that anyone able to control his tongue could control all of his body. This statement reveals the absolute necessity of self-discipline. The operative word here is “control.”

One simply must think before he speaks. Only when we take responsibility for our words, and recognize that we will answer for them in judgment, will we be able to turn our tongues from evil and use them for good.

Too many feel that they are not accountable for their words, or that they cannot help themselves when it comes to their speech. Others may feel that words are simply not that important.

The teaching of scripture demonstrates that none of those excuses are valid. Evil words are a raging fire, James says, able to do great harm.

Our own experiences bear ample witness to that truth. Lives are ruined, hearts are broken, families and churches destroyed by false accusations and cruel rumors. No excuse for such behavior exists.

The false teachers in Crete were termed by Paul “idle talkers and deceivers” (Titus 1:10), and further described as “abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16).

Evil speech is a mark of evil hearts and ungodly lives. It is also a contributor to those characteristics.

In the same way, pure speech is a sign of faithfulness and godliness. One who uses his words to praise God and encourage others demonstrates that love and righteousness exist in his heart. It is that which comes from within, through actions and speech that testify to one’s character.

When I hear accusations against one whom I know to be a brother or sister in Christ, one reaction is to question the character and motive of the accuser. Often (though admittedly not always) such accusations tell us far more of the accuser’s true nature than they do of the accused.

If we are aware of this truth, how much more is God who knows our hearts perfectly? Let us guard our tongues and use them only for good.

–Michael E. Brooks – www.forthright.net

June 20, 2013

It was game six of the NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. The Heat were playing at home and the Spurs were leading the series 3-2, meaning one more win would crown them as the 2013 NBA champions. With 28 seconds left in the game, a spurs player stole a pass and got fouled at the other end. After shooting the free throws the spurs had a 5-point lead, typically enough to secure the win. This deficit was enough for thousands of fans to throw in the towel and try to beat the traffic.

Almost as soon as the fans stepped out of the arena, the Miami Heat sparked an amazing comeback. With only seconds to go, the Heat dropped an incredible 3-point shot to tie the game and send it to overtime. Meanwhile, the fans that left quickly caught wind of what was happening inside and tired to get back to their seats. These fans were met with a team of security guards and the hard and fast rule marked with big read letters, “No re-entry allowed.”

The Heat went on to win the game 103-100 in overtime. Players, coaches, and broadcasters all shared the view that this was one of the greatest and most exciting games. As for the fans that decided to leave early, they missed this great victory.

In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus told a parable with surprising parallels to this game. The parable is about ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of the virgins came prepared with enough oil and five did not. The virgins who did not have enough oil had to leave early to go buy more. While they were gone, the bridegroom came and let the prepared virgins in and closed the door. When the unprepared virgins came back they begged to get in but it was too late. The point of the parable was to warn people to be ready for Christ’s return because

In both of these situations, people missed out on the celebration because of poor choices. As Christians, we want to stand in victory with the Lord. Therefore, let’s remember two lessons from these situations.

1. Always Be Prepared. We don’t know what the future holds (even in silly basketball games). Depending on which comes first, Jesus or death, many people will be caught off guard (Matthew 25:13; 24:42, 44). We must always be prepared.

2. Never Leave Early. Don’t leave the faith. Only those who are faithful until the end will receive the crown of victory (Revelation 2:10).

Let’s not be among those who miss out on the victory because we left early or because we weren’t prepared.

–Brett Petrillo

Toxic Clean-Up

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, ESV).

What in the world had made him say that? Byron shook his head to free his thoughts. He hadn’t used profanity since he was a teenage boy, eager to show off how tough he was.

But back there in the conference room, with his colleagues gathered round, he had allowed the words to slip out.

How had this happened? He was a father of two girls, a church member, a cub scout leader. Like a bad horror movie on Friday 13, he felt as if something had possessed him!

He thought about the weekend he had just spent, playing golf with some rather rough friends; and the movie he had watched Sunday night with the profanity splattered throughout like mud on a windshield on a rainy night.

And it dawned on him that he had been hearing this sort of verbal trash all weekend.

He remembered the lesson this past week at church. The preacher had quoted Romans 12:2 which spoke of “the renewal of the mind.” “Minds can degrade,” the preacher had declared, “just like metal in the water, it can corrode and rust.”

Yes, Byron reflected. That’s what had happened to his mind. It had degraded.

The one thing worse than a vacant mind, he reflected, is one filled with filthy thoughts. Satan had used his vacant mind as a dumping ground. His thoughts had been impure, leading to impure actions.

Time for a toxic, thought clean-up, he reflected.

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Waiting for the Master

The Tokyo Traveler states: “If you ever make plans to meet someone in Shibuya [Japan] there is a good chance that they will suggest meeting at the Hachiko statue. Located in a plaza just outside the station you will find an unassuming statue of an Akita dog named Hachiko whose story and memory is beloved by the people of Tokyo and throughout Japan.”

Hachiko arrived in Tokyo in 1924 with his owner, Hidesamurō Ueno, an agricultural professor at the University of Tokyo.  Each day he saw Ueno off to work and met him at the Shibuya train station upon his return. But one day in 1925, Ueno did not return home from work because he died.

For the next ten years after Ueno’s death – until his own death in 1935 – Hachiko returned to the station each evening to await the arrival of the train that his master rode. While some people at the station initially thought that Hachiko was just roaming around, they soon came to realize that he was waiting for his dead owner, and they nicknamed the dog Chuken (faithful dog).

After his lifeless body was found one afternoon waiting for his master’s train, his obituary was run in the newspaper, his body stuffed and placed on display, and a statue of him planted in his spot, keeping the vigil. During World War II the statue was melted down for the war effort. But in 1947, the public, still loyal to Hachiko’s memory, erected a new bronze statue of him alongside the tracks. It remains there as a monument today as people continue to join him, waiting for loved ones.

You and I can learn a lot from the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26), the lillies of the field (Matthew 6:28), and even from a dog named Hachiko….

The most profound lesson that we learn from Hachiko is to faithfully await the return of the Master — the Savior Jesus Christ!

Jesus, the Son of God, left heaven and “dwelt among us” to open the way to heaven.  He died on the cross for our sins so that we can go to heaven one day (John 14:6).  After his sacrificial death, Jesus rose from the grave on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), then He ascended back to heaven (Acts 1).  But one day, the Living Savior will return to judge the world (Acts 17:30-31).

“Christ was sacrificed ONCE to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a SECOND TIME, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:28).

The Good News is that we can so prepare ourselves that Jesus’ return will not be one of fearful condemnation but joyful salvation.  For Jesus will bring salvation to those who believe Him (Acts 16:30-31), have turned from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessed Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), been baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), and have continually waited faithfully for His return (2 Peter 3:9-18).

When Jesus returns, will He find YOU faithfully waiting?

David A. Sargent

POSSIBLE CAUSES OF HYPERCRITICISM

Adolescents and teens tend to be hard on their peers, judging, prejudging, and engaging in what the King James referred to as “evil surmisings” (1 Tim. 6:4).  Adults can be no less so, leveling brutal criticisms against leaders, peers, and “underlings” alike.  What can motivate such harsh assumptions concerning others motives, words, and actions?

DEFLECTION.  Some feel that spotlighting others weaknesses inherently removes or diverts the spotlight from their own.

PROJECTION.  Some may think that because they are dishonorably, selfishly, or sinfully motivated, others must be as well.

REJECTION.  Some may feel harshly judged or inferior to others, and compensate through hypercriticism.

INFECTION.  Some feed on the hypercriticism of others, and are influenced thereby.

SATISFACTION.  Some enjoy feeding on the misfortunes and flaws of others and find hypercriticism becoming a habit that grows through practice.

Perhaps there are other motives for hypercriticism, but what would be one justifiable reason to engage in it?  It violates the law of love (1 Cor. 13:4-8), the spirit of the golden rule (Lk. 6:31), and the command to consider others above self (Phil. 2:3-4).  Let us be careful about our speech, especially when we would be inclined to criticize (cf. Col. 4:6; Mt. 12:36-37).

–Neal Pollard

Dear Lord, Please Protect Us….

I was praying with my youngest the other night when right in the middle of the prayer, I stopped. My mind had drifted to the news I had just watched a few minutes earlier.

Tornadoes had ravaged Kentucky and much of the south that evening. There was talk of towns being demolished. The death toll was still undetermined but it was clear that some, if not many, had lost their lives and their loved ones. We had hunkered down only hours before due to the tumultuous weather.

I thought of other times when I hadn’t exactly felt God’s protection. Deaths, divorces, and acts of wickedness have stopped me in my tracks. I remembered questioning where God was and how he could ever let such atrocities happen.

My daughter’s blue eyes searched mine and I wondered if the words I had spoken over the years have been setting her up to doubt. Because pain will come. Tragedy will strike. Evil will have its moments and even its days.

Broken hearts and broken roads will be common, but in all of them, I never want her or any of my children to ever think that God has turned his back.

I don’t want them to assume that he doesn’t love them because he didn’t keep them from every hurt and every difficult moment. I want them to know that regardless of what this life brings, God cares and is no stranger to heartache.

He was there when Cain killed Abel. He saw what it did to Adam and Eve.

He watched Joseph’s brothers throw him in the pit and saw Jacob mourn.

He knew Job’s suffering.

He was too familiar with Mary’s.

He watched the Christians of the first century tortured and murdered in despicable way and he’s seen us on our knees, as well.

Our love for God should never depend on him keeping us from the woes of this world. And although God can work all things out for good (Romans 8:28), God isn’t behind all things. Evil strikes because evil exists.

We may never understand the whys and how comes, but we must trust the one who will have the final say. He is our love, our strength, and our protection even when we can’t feel it, bear it, or see it.

So, I took a deep breath and chose my words more wisely:

Dear Lord, Please protect us and watch over us as we go about this life but even if bad times come and break our hearts, please give us the strength not to leave you, not to turn our backs on your, and not to blame you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Paula Harrington @ www.forthright.net

2 Timothy 4:2 – “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine”

We have before us a passage of scripture with some far reaching implications. Of course, we understand that Paul is telling Timothy (as well as you and I) to always teach and set the right example (1 Tim. 3:12) under all conditions whether they be favorable or unfavorable. I do believe that this is a message that is deeper and goes beyond the teaching aspect of our lives. Our faith, our religious life, our Christianity must be deep enough, strong enough that it will never be classified as “seasonal”.  Sadly, tragically, this is a problem faced by many churches—“seasonal members”. Just as a side note here, our assembly times tell a powerful story. At the A.M. worship hour our pews are full or at least comfortably so. But look at the assembly at the P.M. worship hour or on Wednesday mid week assembly. Where, O where, have the “Christians” gone? Spasmodic, undependable, hot one minute, cold the next, here today, gone tomorrow. “In season”, “out of season” means “at all times”. Our faith stands strong when it is opportune or inopportune, when it is convenient, when it is inconvenient, when it is easy, when it is difficult, when we want to and when we don’t want to. There is no off season for Christians, no sale days or marked down prices. I once read a statement by someone whose name I have long ago forgotten which said, “either you is or you ain’t”. Not the proper way to speak perhaps but the sentiment is right on.

Living the Christian life is not a mere profession but it is a practice, not just some emotional feeling but a demonstration and this is a seven day, twenty-four hours a day matter (Jas.1:21, Matt. 25, Gal. 6:10,Matt. 5:16, Matt. 7:21, Jas. 2:14-26, 1 Cor. 15:58, Acts 2:46). I love the words of Paul in Romans 12:1, “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”. We must yield ourselves to him completely, letting him have full possession. His word must fill our heart, mold our thoughts and guide our life. Our life as a Christian does not depend on where we are or who we are with. It does not depend on the weather or even how we feel. The real test of our Christianity is serving our God in spite of circumstances that may surround us (Matt. 10:38, 16:24).

The uncertainty of the future should inspire us to make our religious life (our Christianity) a seven day, twenty-four hours a day matter. Ours should always be an “everyday religion” not one that is spasmodic, in and out, up and down like a roller coaster (Eccl. 9:10). Ever remember that “in season, out of season” equals “at all times”. We claim to be a child of God. I wonder, can he depend on us to be the child he wants us to be?

Charles Hicks

Lessons Learned Standing Outside the Church Building

Last Sunday evening during worship my 9-month-old son started getting fussy. I took him out into the foyer and eventually had to step outside because the Lord’s Supper was being held in the foyer on this particular Sunday. As I stood outside, I realized that I had never been outside of the building when worship was taking place. It was a very unique experience.

First, I was able to hear beautiful singing. Even though I wasn’t inside, I could hear voices harmonizing together and the wonderful melody pouring out of the open windows. I was even able to pick out certain voices because of the conversations and fellowship I’ve had with these individuals.

Second, I noticed several distractions outside. The street was busy with passing cars and people traveling to one destination or another. My son (who loves cars) watched every vehicle until it was out of sight. Every time a car passed by, the singing was drowned out by the road noise. These distractions quickly cut off any connection I had with the worship inside.

Third, I saw the faces of the people in the cars. Even though worship was taking place and there was beautiful singing to be heard, not one person looked over at the building or heard the praises being sung. Car after car simply drove on by. The faces I saw described people who were focused on their lives, their plans, their destinations, and people who were uninterested in worship. These people were locked away in their cars, blocked out from God, and likely engulfed by the world. It was sad to see people so near to a place of worship and yet so far from God. While it’s possible not all the people I saw were lost souls, their actions and attitudes certainly pointed in that direction.

Seeing all of this outside brought me to this conclusion: It is a tremendous blessing to be able to worship with the saints. We have no fear of persecution or punishment for our actions. We can open the windows and let our singing be heard by all. There are tremendous bonds and connections with those we worship with. When we worship, we can shut ourselves out from the world and surround ourselves in worship (Romans 12:2). While worshipping, we can put all distractions aside and focus on the Lord (Luke 10:38-42).

Worshiping the Lord is so wonderful! This is why it’s so disheartening to see people pass by who don’t know about this blessing. This is also why it is so horrifying to think of those who know of this privilege yet choose to skip out anyway.

Hebrews 10 summarizes this thought incredibly well: “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (19, 22-25).

When the next appointed worship time comes, let’s make sure we are there and invite others to come share in this privilege.

–Brett Petrillo

Mercy for the Merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

David Evans knew he was in trouble when he saw the big cottonwood in the back yard toppled over after the storm. It had fallen on the neighbor’s yard, breaking part of the wall that separated the two properties.

And McLeland was not happy. “This cost at least five grand, and you will have to pay for its complete replacement,” he declared.

David didn’t have the money. He was a retired teacher, and had lost what savings he had when his beloved Glenda had succumbed to cancer. He would have to borrow.

And, what was more, the economy was bad these days. Fearfully he entered the big bank and asked for the loan officer. Would they grant him the money?

He was shown into the room of a big young man wearing a suit, and sat down. He explained the situation, and offered his two bedroom house as security. David could not divine the man’s attitude. The officer sat and listened impassively.

When he was finished, the big man said quietly: “Mr. Evans, you don’t remember me, do you?

The officer was correct. He could not recall him.

“I was in your class fifteen years ago. Do you remember the day that I broke the window of your car horsing around?”

“Little Tommy?” David said with wonder, “You’ve grown up!”

“I go by Thomas these days. But I remember thinking that I could never afford to pay for that window. You put your arm around me, and said, “Son, a window can be replaced; little boys cannot.”

He looked at the elderly teacher and smiled. “Now, Mr. Evans, about that loan …”

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Is faith alone enough?

THE FIRST THING we need to know about Paul’s answer as recorded in Acts 16 is that is was only the beginning of the answer…

When he told the jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” he did not stop there.  A doctor, when asked, “What shall I do about my disease may reply, “Just trust in me and I will take care of you.”  All understand that to be the beginning of an answer that involves putting yourself into the doctor’s care, following his directions, and taking his prescriptions.  There is no instance in or out of the Bible of anyone ever being blessed by faith, cured by faith or saved by faith until that faith led them to obey.  Even denominational theologians admit that belief that offers salvation always involves a trusting reliance on him, not merely intellectual assent.  The problem is, they do not seem to know what “trusting reliance” involves.

It is easy to see here that the response was one that was always true in every case of conversion.  They heard the gospel (v. 32, cf., Romans 10:17).  They responded to that story in penitent faith (v. 33, Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).  They were baptized immediately (cf. Acts 22:16; 8:37-38).  Can one imagine a person who thinks baptism is not important being baptized at that hour of the night under those circumstances?  When verse 34 indicates that they “rejoiced, having believed” it again shows that this faith was not simply intellectual assent, but trusting reliance on and submission to the commands of Jesus.  (T. Pierce Brown)

“And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.  And immediately he and all his family were baptized.  Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God will all his household.”  Acts 16:30-34

–Mike Benson

How many Mrs. Rosensteins are in the city which you live?

JEAN ROSENSTEIN SAT down at a small table in her cramped, one-bedroom apartment and painfully put her thoughts on paper…

The arthritis in her fingers made the writing difficult and painful, but she continued.  The scrawled words read, “I’m so lonely I could die.  So alone.  I cannot write.  My hands and fingers pain me…I see no human beings.  My phone never rings…I’m so very old, so very lonely.  I hear from no one…Way past eighty years.  Should I die?  Never had any kind of holidays, no kind.  My birthday is this month…Sometimes I even feel sure the world ended, and I’m the only one on earth.  How else can I feel?  Oh, dear God, help me.  Am of sound mind, so lonely, very, very much.  I don’t know what to do.”

She put the letter in an oversized yellow envelope along with some money and six stamps and mailed it to the Los Angles Times newspaper.  The money was to pay for the call if someone would just call to talk to her.  The stamps were for anyone who would take the time to write.  In a city surrounded by millions of people, Jean Rosenstein felt alone.  And what happened?  First, a reporter called and said he would like to visit.  Mrs. Rosenstein was delighted.  She had not had a visitor for a long, long time.

She described her painfully accurate situation to the reporter.  “If you are alone, you die every day…Sometimes I just dread to see myself wake up in the morning.”  The newspaper printed her letter along with a story.  Within days thousands of letters and cards poured into the little apartment.  Visitors began to stream in and out to talk to the lonely lady who had no friends.  So many people called that she finally had to take the phone off the hook.  Letters came from elderly people, young couples sent pictures of their children.  People responded from all over the world.  She said, “This will last a lifetime.”

THOUGHT: How many Mrs. Rosensteins are in the city which you live–some lost in vast cities, some in convalescent hospitals, some in shabby apartments, some on farms–all forgotten people, forgotten by children and former acquaintances, forgotten by people who are too busy to care?  All that is necessary to destroy loneliness is the one real friend.  If there is a Jean Rosenstein living near you, a person who needs your friendship as badly as you need to extend it?  Take a look, friend, and reach out to that person.  (Harold J. Sala)

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 18:24

–Mike Benson

Preserving the Unity of the Spirit

The first several verses of Ephesians 4 have long been recognized as a unity passage. Let’s take another look at it.

Here’s the text, from the NET Bible:

4:1 I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 4:3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

1. The Conformity of Unity (1).

It is not by chance that, in this section on unity, Paul calls upon the Christian to live, or walk, worthily of their calling. The calling is the invitation to enter and participate in the kingdom of God. Unity is a feature of that kingdom, one of its many blessings. To walk worthily of the calling means to live in a manner that corresponds to kingdom demands and reaches the heights of kingdom purposes. It means promoting the unity God grants.

2. The Attitude of Unity (2).

Some people constantly fight over words or personalities. God’s people love peace and seek every opportunity to promote it, within the parameters he sets.

Some charge us with arrogance for what we teach, but to receive the word of God and proclaim it as only truth is the essence of humility, for it recognizes that the capacity for producing truth is not in the human heart, but in the message of Christ. Arrogant is he who refuses to recognize God’s plain truth.

3. The Effort for Unity (3).

Unity is not created, but received from God; it is unity of the Spirit. Hence, we preserve it. We are to make “every effort” to preserve it, even if the church’s building is painted a different color than our preference.

And when unity is destroyed? We restore it with those who are willing, like us, to repent and do the will of God.

4. The Basis for Unity (4-6).

These seven elements express the only basis upon which God grants unity. At the center is Lord Jesus Christ, around whom everything in the church revolves. Paul probably has a concentric or chiastic pattern for these seven.

A One body B One Spirit C One hope X One Lord C’ One faith B’ One baptism A’ One God and Father

5. The Diversity for Unity (7).

To speak of diversity in unity is inaccurate; God created the diversity of the body of Christ to contribute to unity, because it is not a diversity of beliefs, but of gifts and functions (see verses 8-16). In the many areas of service, we speak the same thing. The one body has many active members and all act in coordination from the head.

To be one, we must fit ourselves into the divine pattern of unity.

–by J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

Get a “full reward”

“Full Benefits”

Travel with me through time to the era of our grandparents. We’ve made one of our infrequent trips to the general store and purchased, among other staples, a box of oatmeal. Guess what we’ll find inside that box? Yes, we’ll find oatmeal, the old fashioned variety that takes a few minutes to prepare. But in certain brands we’ll also find glassware. “Wedding Crystal Oats” was a leading brand of the time, and many young brides filled their cupboards in this way.

Suppose, however, someone excitedly opened the box to pull out their piece of crystal, but threw away the carton and “packing material”. “What are you doing?” we would ask. “Don’t you realize that the glass is only part of the package? Enjoy the full benefits of your purchase!”

I heard a similar story about an old man who saved his pennies for years so he could take an ocean cruise. The day finally arrived when he boarded the ship bound for the Caribbean. He marveled at the view and enjoyed the ship’s decorations. In the evening he walked back to his economy cabin and dined on dry bread and moldy cheese as wealthier passengers made their way to the dining hall.

After a couple of days someone asked why he had not joined the rest for meals. “I only had enough to buy my fare,” the old man responded. “I cannot afford those lavish meals.” “Oh, but you don’t understand,” the other answered. “The meals are included with the price of your ticket!”

Are there Christians who miserably eat dry bread and moldy cheese, thinking that’s the best that can be offered them? Here’s a message from the apostle John you might want to hear: “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).

There is a “full reward” for all who faithfully follow Jesus. But are we laying claim to the fullness of our reward? Or only enjoying certain aspects while enviously watching others who seem to have a joy that we can only imagine?

Paul also urged Christians to receive their full benefits: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Some disciples touch only the periphery of faith’s blessings. They take time to worship God, perhaps only once a week, and know just enough to be uncomfortable about their standing before God. They sing with less gusto than others, live less devoted lives, and serve only their own needs. This is not “the fullness of God”.

Jesus provided for a full package of benefits for those who turn away from the world to live for God. His purpose is clear: “… I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Give yourself fully to the Lord and enjoy His full benefits!

Come to the light God offers! Study His word, the Bible. Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

Timothy D. Hall.

The Shield of Shame

Keith Wishum reports that there are several types of beetle larvae that carry what is called a fecal shield. They keep their own excrement and build a shield from it on their backs. That discourages predators — not just for the reasons we might think. It’s not that potential predators find the shield contents disgusting; they find them dangerous. The beetles feed on noxious plants so that their fecal material is poisonous. Other creatures do not want to bother them!

Some PEOPLE are like that: they feed on toxic thoughts! They store them up and build an invisible shield that is highly effective at keeping others away. Being NEAR them proves to be very unpleasant. BEING them is even more repulsive.

If we store up and carry around noxious things from our past, the past poisons the present and it robs us of joy. If we hope to be joyful, we must do some forgetting.

And among the most important things to forget are our failures….

Notice what Paul said: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

For Paul, part of his past was “persecuting the church” (Philippians 3:6). At one time he was convinced that he ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26:9).  He realized his error when he was confronted by the risen Christ and he became a Christian (Acts 9, 22, 26).

Paul’s past was dark. It could easily have darkened the rest of his days. But, by God’s grace, he could forget what was behind. YOU can, too!

Jesus died on the cross so that we might have the forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:7).  Our sins can be cleansed by His blood when we respond in trusting obedience: believing and trusting in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

We ALL have our share of shame however, we don’t have to carry it around  (Romans 3:23). God offers to FREE US from our shield of shame to let us live with joy and hope.

Won’t you allow Him to free YOU from the burden of sin?

David A. Sargent

The Sunshine Vitamin

The September/ October 2009 edition of AARP Magazine had an article entitled “The Sunshine Vitamin.” They’re referring, of course, to Vitamin D. Research has shown that this common vitamin pays big dividends in human health.

Harvard researchers, for example, found that of the 18,000 men they’ve been tracking since 1993, those with higher levels of Vitamin D were least likely to have heart attacks. Other studies have shown that abundant amounts of this vitamin have positive benefits for “the risk of colorectal cancer, hip fractures and tooth loss.”

As we learn these benefits, however, the trend of Americans is to get less Vitamin D than before. The most common source of this nutrient is exposure to sunlight. We spend far more time indoors than did our ancestors. Combine that fact with warnings about overexposure to the sun and it’s no wonder that many get too little sunshine. Just 10 to 15 minutes exposure to sunlight a few times each week would do wonders for our physical health.

Exposure to light is also important for our souls. John’s introduction of Jesus includes these intriguing words: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4, NKJV). One would think that the dawning of such powerful and pure light would be welcomed by all.

But some prefer not to expose themselves to the light Jesus gives:

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19,20).

Good spiritual health depends on regular exposure to this Son-light. Paul said as much in Ephesians 5:8: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

Let’s take a moment to reflect: Do we come to the light regularly? Or are there other activities we enjoy more? What does that say about our soul’s condition?

“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6,7).

Just 10 to 15 minutes of exposure a few times each week.

by Tim Hall